Black-crested bird in Central California with white belly and brown/orange side streaks

by Jenny G
(Salinas, CA, USA)

terrible drawing, may or may not have the shape right, but I can't forget that head crest and the orange patch!

Put out some generic birdseed, and along with the blue jays and other small birds comes this one bird about an inch shorter than the blue jays, maybe about 4" tall and as long as the longest distance between your thumb and pinkie stretched out.

Has a large black crest that stands upright and looks like a big black paintbrush stroke; head is entirely black, I think the hood is also black, and the top feathers of the bird and most of the top of the wings and tail as well. Chest is white or cream, and on the sides (not sure if on wings or on chest beneath wings) are large swathes of a brownish orange, noticeable but not super saturated or iridescent. The colors were distinct, no blending. Bird was lanky with longish legs, slim body, and distinct neck like a jay. I think it hopped rather than walked, and was very bold. It had the stature of a jay rather than a smaller songbird.

Can't find this guy online anywhere!

Comments for Black-crested bird in Central California with white belly and brown/orange side streaks

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Dec 12, 2015
RE: Jacksonville birdie
by: Lori

YOU ARE RIGHT!! Thank you - this has been driving me crazy. The Belted Kingfisher photos are spot-on for what's in my back yard. :)

Dec 12, 2015
Fish-eating bird in Florida
by: Anonymous

Lori, yours sounds as if it might be the belted kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon. It's common for kingfishers to have the behavior you mentioned. What fun, to be able to watch this! Do an online search for images and I'll bet you find your bird.

Dec 12, 2015
In Jacksonville, FL also
by: Lori

This birdie has been in my backyard for the last 2 weeks. It's currently dive-bombing into a pond for small fish from a big oak tree outside my bedroom windows. It takes them back to a branch and gobbles them down. This rendering, for me, is also the most accurate depiction I can find. It captures the tone of this bird well. Nice job!

Sep 12, 2015
Can't help you then :(
by: Anonymous

The rufous towhee solved my mystery, with its 'crest on demand'; sorry it doesn't solve yours. I'd contact the ornithology department at a few large universities; at least it will make an interesting adventure for some students. Best of luck!

Sep 11, 2015
Ugh typing
by: Liz

I should be banned from phone typing. :-/

The mystery bird I saw was larger and leaner than the spotted towhee (in addition to having a crest and no spots). The rufous towhee I have not seen in person, so am unable to comment.

Sorry but the typing confusion

Sep 11, 2015
by: Liz

I also thought maybe ours was a towhee - but last year we had a pair of spotted owhees that stayed with us through the fall and winter. These birds were larger (no spots or crest) and leaner. Our mystery bird almost looked like a phainopepla crossed with a spotted towhee... Both which we have out here, but not likely they have interbred ;-) Still a mystery....

Sep 11, 2015
Spotted or Rufous-sided towhee
by: Rangegrad

I searched for this bird for months as well. The presence of a crest on 'mine' is what made it difficult, as nowhere could I find one mentioned on towhees. Finally found a photo of one with a crest; evidently they will do this at certain times. Mystery solved, for me anyway.

Jun 28, 2015
He's here
by: Anonymous

He has made it to Georgia. I have been looking on line and the closest thing i have come up with is a black towhee. Seems impossible since they aren't supposed to be here. You picture is more dead on than the photos though. I will keep searching.

May 30, 2015
Same Bird - PA
by: Kasey

We have the same bird in Phoenixville, PA. Keeps coming to our bird feeder and has the distinct colors with the tufted head. I don't know what it sounds like, but the drawing is spot on. I can't find the bird online anywhere, but might try looking in the Petersons Bird Guide. Has anyone else figured out what it is yet?

Apr 03, 2015
I saw it too
by: AnonymousOomshadow

I saw it yesterday in Carmel valley California. I have heard it a million times, but finally spotted it for the first time. It appears to be a type of crow/blackbird. It's voice haunts my dreams.

Oct 23, 2014
New Bird
by: Patty

I just saw this bird in my backyard in OH. I have never seen or heard it before. I would love to know what it is.

Sep 30, 2014
no luck
by: Jenny G

Not yet Liz!

Sep 29, 2014
Another sighting
by: Liz

Jenny, did you ever find out what kind of bird this was? I saw one about a week ago here in Springdale, UT (pinyon/juniper forested area), and have been going crazy trying to find out what it was. It was not a towhee b/c of the crest...and had a more regal stature than the towhees.

If you found anything out, please let me know! And it was a perfect drawing, actually!

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